Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Program

Reaching New Depths with Mini-ROVs

The MPA Collaborative Network is launching projects across California using underwater drones. These small, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are being used to explore and study marine protected areas along the California coast. Through a partnership with Sofar Ocean and funding from the S.E.E. Initiative, each of the 14 MPA Collaboratives from Del Norte to San Diego County has received Trident mini-ROVs. With a depth rating of 100 meters and a 3-hour dive time, these ocean exploration tools will help Collaboratives expand outreach projects that have previously been restricted to land or shore and develop opportunities for citizen science, refining research questions and developing needed protocols.


Recent Updates

  • June 24, 2020 – Resource links are updated to include updated Best Practices Guide with Health and Safety information and an updated Trident Trip Planning Checklist.
  • May 28, 2020 – Resource links are updated to include the most up-to-date Trident Manual.
  • May 7, 2020 – This webpage went live to act as a one-stop-shop resource for all things MPA Collaborative Network ROV Program.
  • March 16, 2020 – Trident software update available, version 1.8.14. Make sure your software is updated before your next trip. Review page 31-32 of Trident Manual to learn how.
  • March 11, 2020 – Sofar Trident app (formerly Open ROV Cockpit app) update available, version 1.7.9-android-5. Make sure your piloting app is updated on your device before your next trip. Review page 31-32 of Trident Manual to learn how.

ROV Program Highlights

How are collaborative members using the Trident ROVs? Check out the highlights below to see some of the awesome work that is being done. Highlights include underwater video footage shot with Trident ROVs, news articles, and more. If you are a collaborative member with an update to share, contact to be featured.

ROV Live-Dives

Sofar Ocean has teamed up with the Collaborative Network to host live-streamed ROV dives using the Tridents. More are being planned for 2020. Stay tuned!

SE Farallon Island White Sharks

See white sharks up close and personal in this video by Shark Stewards, a member of the Golden Gate MPA Collaborative. 

Creature Feature

A Trident ROV found some unexpected creatures on a dive in Trinidad, CA.

Life in a Tidepool

Dive into the tidepools of Natural Bridges State Beach with this video created by Santa Cruz County Collaborative members Save Our Shores using the Trident ROV.

Eelgrass Monitoring

Join Point Reyes National Seashore and Point Reyes National Seashore Association, members of the Golden Gate Collaborative,  as they document eelgrass meadows and find a congregation of leopard sharks (Triakis semifasciata) in Drakes Estero State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA).

In the News

A Press Democrat article on California’s MPAs featuring a Sonoma MPA Collaborative member, the MPA Collaborative Network and “Eve” and ROV.

Using Collaborative ROVs

Trident ROVs are shared resources for each MPA Collaborative in the Network and are available for use only by members. If you are already involved with your local MPA Collaborative, just reach out to your Co-Chairs and they’ll help you get started using the ROV. Alternatively, you can also fill out the ROV Check-Out Request Form and your request will be forwarded. Members are asked to attend a Collaborative ROV training before using the Trident ROVs.

Not a member yet? No worries! If you are interested in getting involved with your local MPA Collaborative and having access to resources like the Trident ROVs, reach out to the Co-Chairs to express your interest. Everyone is welcome to join and contribute their expertise to advance MPA management and encourage ocean stewardship at the local level. Contact information for Co-Chairs can be found on each Collaborative page.

Procedure and Requirements for Member Use

1. Attend a Collaborative ROV Training. Members who have not been able to attend a training are asked to work with a member who has. Training videos coming soon.

2. Review the available resources in the Resources section of this page, especially the Best Practices Guide, Trip Planning Checklist, Field Data Sheet and Guide to filling it out, and Trident mini-ROV User Manual.

3. Fill out the ROV Check-Out Request form or contact Collaborative Co-Chairs/ROV hosts to schedule time to use the Trident ROV.

4. Ensure Trident and controller are charged and both the software and app are up to date before use. See the manual for details.

5. Explore the underwater world with the Trident! Take video (above and below the water) and pictures of yourself using it. Fill out the Field Data Sheet for each expedition (trip). One data sheet can be used for multiple launches in one day.

6. Rinse equipment properly with fresh water and dry thoroughly. See the manual for details.

7. SEND COMPLETED FIELD DATA SHEETS TO This is necessary to gather important data and determine best practices for ROV use in MPAs.

8. Upload any ROV footage you’d like to share with the Network to the ROV Video Database with credit information. See the manual for details on how to transfer video from Trident.

9. Share updates on social media. Tag @mpacollaborativenetwork, @sofarocean, #SEEInitiative, #MPATrident.

10. Send pictures, video, and an informational blurb about your trip to to be featured on MPA Collaborative Network channels.

11. Return equipment to host at the agreed-upon time.

The Technology

Trident Underwater Drone from Sofar Ocean

Image courtesy of Sofar Ocean

Good to Know:

  • Live video is streamed back to the surface via a Kevlar-reinforced tether, then to your device over WIFI
  • Open source – attach custom sensors or modules as add-ons to the payload area
  • Records 1080p @ 30fps
  • Need an android device 5.1 or higher to control the Trident using the OpenROV App
  • Customizable – various control set-ups are supported including virtual reality headsets


To access the resources below, click the + (plus) icon to expand the box and show the description. Then click anywhere in the expanded blue box to open the link to the resource in a new tab.

MPA Collaborative Network Developed Resources

All Trident Resources

Access all the available resources in one Google Drive folder. 

Field Data Sheet

Fill this data sheet out each time the Trident is taken out on an expedition. Send completed data sheets to

Guide to Filling Out the Field Data Sheet

Use this guide to help you fill in the appropriate information on the field data sheet.

Trip Planning Checklist

A checklist with everything you should do before and after a dive with the Trident.

Best Practices Guide

A living document on how to limit risk and environmental impacts while using the Trident inside and outside of marine protected areas.

Mini-ROV Video Database

Upload footage collected with your Trident ROV to this Google Drive. The footage can be seen and utilized by all collaborative members. Be sure to include appropriate credit information (person or organization name, location, title, etc.) and credit appropriately when using footage.

Educator Resources (Coming Soon!)

The MPA CN team is working to develop “quick reference” sheets with information on ROVs, California MPAs, and habitats for educators to use in conjunction with the Trident.

Training Videos (Coming Soon!)

The MPA CN team is working to develop Trident ROV training videos for collaborative members.

Live-streaming Toolkit (Coming Soon!)

The MPA CN team is working to develop a collection of resources for collaborative members who want to live-stream their Trident ROV dives.

Manufacturer Sofar Ocean Resources

Trident ROV User Manual

View the Trident User Manual for everything you need to know about operation and piloting.

Trident Specifications Sheet

Technical information and Trident specifications.

Trident FAQs

Find answers to common questions about the Trident ROV.

Video Tutorial: Getting Started with 1080p Video

A video tutorial about updating the app, recording 1080p videos, managing video files and more.

OpenROV Community Forum

A community forum with ROV users around the globe asking and answering questions, providing resources, and more.

How to Stream Your Trident Dive Live to the Internet

A blog outlining just one way to live-stream your Trident dive with suggested equipment and streaming platforms.

Trident Streaming Set-Up Options

A Google Slides presentation showing various Trident live-streaming set-up options and equipment.

Network Knowledge

Here we showcase inventions, tips, and tricks for the Trident ROVs developed by collaborative members. This allows collaborative members across the Statewide Network to learn from each other and leverage resources. Have some “Network Knowledge” to share? Contact to be featured.

Virtual Reality Pilot Set-Up

Learn how Mendocino County MPA Collaborative Member, the Noyo Center for Marine Science, pilots their Trident using a virtual reality headset. Inventor: Crans Squire, Technology Progam Lead.

Propeller Cover for Entanglement Prevention

Learn how a San Diego County MPA Collaborative Member designed a Trident propeller cover screen to prevent eelgrass entanglement. Inventor: Joe Cooper.

Propeller Cover for Entanglement Prevention Version 2

Learn how a Santa Cruz County MPA Collaborative Member designed a Trident propeller cover screen using window screen mesh and zip ties to prevent eelgrass entanglement. Inventor: Save Our Shores.

Contact Us

Please reach out if you have any questions about the ROV program or using the Trident ROVs, suggestions for this web page, content for the Program Highlights section, or information to share in the Network Knowledge section. MPA Collaborative Network (MPA CN) staff will do their best to assist you or connect you with someone who can. If you have any technical issues with the Trident you can email and copy MPA CN staff.